It’s often said that the first step in solving any problem is admitting that there is one.
As Denmark’s largest gambling company, Danske Spil might be the last organization you’d expect to admit that the nation has a growing gambling problem. But the message from national health authorities is clear: gambling addiction is on the rise and it often brings with it serious issues like depression, anxiety and alcoholism.
Danske Spil could either stick its head in the sand and deny reality or admit that is part of the growing problem. For Elisabeth Crone Linding, the head of responsible gambling at Danske Spil, the choice is obvious. As her job title suggests, Linding has been involved in numerous campaigns meant to encourage a healthy relationship with gambling.
But Linding and her colleagues at Danske Spil felt like something was missing from their previous efforts. They wanted to really drive home the ways that gambling addiction can ruin lives and destroy families.
The gambling company decided to team up with Heartbeats, a Danish online media specializing in podcasts and videos. There, Danske Spil found a perfect partner in Heartbeats creative director Thomas Stokholm, whose son Bastian struggles with gambling addiction.
Each episode podcast begins with a short public service announcement about the dangers of gambling addiction and information on how to get help. Perhaps sensing that their partnership in the podcast could face criticism, episode one includes a message from Oddset, Danske Spil’s sport betting service, about its role in the problem.
“You might be sitting there thinking that it is hypocritical for Oddset to make a podcast about gambling addiction. Are we trying to buy our way to a clear conscience or a bit of positive media coverage?” the intro message states. “First of all, it can never be positive [for us] if our customers end up with serious problems. Secondly, when we are a part of the problem, we have an obligation to be a part of the solution.”
While that blunt admission from Danske Spil may raise eyebrows, it is the deeply personal dialogue between father and son that really connects with listeners. Over the course of five episodes, Bastian speaks openly about addiction and Thomas discusses how it has affected the entire family and tries to come to grips with his own responsibility.
Thomas Stokholm told the Institute that the reaction to the podcast was overwhelmingly positive.
“Both Bastian and I have had a massive positive response,” he said. “On top of that, there have been some heartbreaking reach outs from family and friends to gambling addicts. Neither Bastian nor I are professionals, but we have had and still have some very deep conversations and numerous times we had to point [listeners] to more professional help.”
Professionals were also featured in the series. In addition to the in-studio conversations between father and son, a number of experts are also brought in to share their insights.
“The story deserved that”
The intimacy of the podcast format helped paint a fuller picture, Linding said.
“It was a good format to discuss something that was both difficult and also something that has many nuances,” she recently told the Native Advertising Institute. “Instead of having a very black and white, very brief discussion about gambling addiction, [we were] able to give it some more time. We thought that the story deserved that.”
Linding said that telling such an intimate story not only required great care and transparency with the Stokholm family but also required buy-in throughout Danske Spil. After all, gambling was not exactly being portrayed as a fun and lighthearted hobby. The organisation ultimately saw the value in addressing addiction head-on.
“Even though we're a gambling operator and we've been here for a long time, we don't know everything about this,” she said. “This was not a personal attack on Danske Spil. It was more a question of informing and clarifying the areas where we need to work together with legislators and treatment centres to know more about this. Danske Spil should be a part of that solution.”
Stockholm said that participating in the podcast helped Bastian come to grips with his issues.
“My son is still running in his second year as clean. But there is still a lot of lost time, friendships and self-respect to be picked up. But all in all, he is doing great,” he said. “We have absolutely no regrets sharing our personal story. It has touched so many but most importantly it has helped our father-and-son relationship.”
Justin Cremer is the editor of the Native Advertising Institute. Originally from Iowa, he worked as an English-language journalist in Denmark for several years. In addition to his NAI role, he is also a journalist and copywriter for the Copenhagen content marketing agency Brand Movers.